Lumbar Spine Cyst

A lumbar spine cyst, often in the form of what’s referred to as a synovial cyst, is a rare source of back pain. It’s a benign condition linked to spinal stenosis in the lower spine. Spinal stenosis itself is a narrowing of the open spaces within the spine. The cyst, a fluid-filled sac, sometimes creates added pressure in this narrow space that presses on nerves.

What Causes a Lumbar Cyst?

Synovial cysts are associated with age-related degeneration, with the condition seen the most in patients 65 and older. The cysts develop in the facet joints of the lower spine, often at the L4 and L5 levels. It’s believed that venous blood around nerves isn’t able to drain properly, allowing a fluid-filled cyst to form. Symptoms associated with lumbar cysts include:

  • Minimal to no pain while sitting
  • Pain felt in one or both legs
  • A cramping feeling in the legs
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness or tingling

Treatments for a Lumbar Cyst

Treatment is very similar to what’s typical for patients with spinal stenosis with no cyst present, meaning physical therapy, activity modification, epidural or facet injections, and anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition to these non-surgical treatments, observation of the cyst is sometimes all that’s necessary if pain can be managed through other conservative remedies, including:

  • Heat or cold applications
  • Brief periods of rest
  • Prescription pain medications
  • Light exercise and stretching

Identifying Spinal Instability

Patients are often monitored for signs of spinal instability. If surgery is necessary due to persistent pain caused by a cyst, it’s usually one of the following procedures:

  • Decompression: Pressure on nerves is relieved and the cyst is removed, although it may re-form later since conditions that caused it to form will remain.
  • Decompression with Spine Fusion: The cyst is removed and the unstable part of the spine is fused; the cyst isn’t likely to re-form after stabilization.

While a lumbar spine cyst isn’t a common cause of back pain, it is a source worth considering when other possible sources of discomfort have been eliminated. It’s also a condition that can be easily identified through image testing, often allowing for more effective treatments.

Learn more about treatment options for back pain by call The Spine Institute in Los Angeles at (310) 828-7757. Our experienced team can diagnose your back pain and help you rediscover a pain-free lifestyle.